5 Defining Moments in Italy's 2014 World Cup Campaign
Much like four years ago, Italy’s World Cup campaign ended in a humiliating exit, unable to secure progression from the group stage.
Despite Cesare Prandelli lifting the Azzurri from their South African slump and into the final of Euro 2012, he too suffered the ignominy of falling at the first hurdle.
As always, the post-mortem has been depressing. Wide-reaching analysis and opinion on the peninsula has seen the blame divided up among various parties.
Over the following pages are the five moments which best defined Italy’s showing at this summer’s tournament, one of the darkest ever days in Azzurri history.
5. Uruguayans Doing What They're (In)Famous for
Italy were holding on desperately for the vital point they needed against Uruguay, knowing a draw would be enough for them to reach the last 16.
Within the space of a few seconds, however, their dream of progressing was taken away by two men—each repeating something they have begun to do with surprising regularity.
First, Luis Suarez bit down on Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder in what appeared to be an unprovoked attack.
The incident controversially went unpunished on the field as play continued, but the Azzurri appeared rattled.
Diego Godín then headed home from a corner to hand his side victory, having also netted in both the La Liga title decider and the Champions League final.
4. Giuseppe Rossi Misses the Tournament
While there were numerous on-field incidents which will linger in the memory of both Italian fans and the team, it is impossible to overlook the impact of Giuseppe Rossi being deemed unfit.
The striker underwent knee surgery to correct an injury, but returned to net two goals in his last five games, according to WhoScored.com.
Prandelli ultimately decided against taking the 27-year-old, a choice he must rue after seeing the ineffectual displays of the strikers he selected.
3. Senior Players Speak out
Even amid talk of unrest within the Italy camp, it was still somewhat surprising that two of the side’s most senior players spoke out in the press.
Each made cutting remarks about younger members of the squad, and neither seemed happy with the situation.
Captain Gianluigi Buffon first told Corriere della Sera (h/t Football Italia) that "the players who break their bones for the cause are always the same ones, every time."
He was supported by midfielder Daniele de Rossi, who spoke to reporters a few days later, per the Guardian:
I support what Buffon said, that we veterans have the right spirit and we always accept responsibility. Whoever doesn’t feel like making the same effort and doesn’t have the same passion should say so and stay home.
2. Mario Balotelli’s Performance vs. Uruguay
Mario Balotelli's performance against Uruguay was the perfect portrait of his team-mates' frustrations.
The striker was so poor he was taken off at the half.
WhoScored.com shows that in his 45-minute appearance, he managed just 17 touches, took only one off-target shot and received a booking after a series of ugly fouls.
1. Cesare Prandelli Resigns
If the 2014 World Cup is to be remembered for one thing on the peninsula, it is likely to be the premature end to the Cesare Prandelli era.
The coach is a widely respected and well-liked figure across the country, and his resignation has been largely lamented.
Feeling he could no longer continue, his mistakes were glaring, but he still will be received with huge affection in Italy and beyond.